In what has been termed as the biggest ransomware offense in the history of the cyber world, a global cyber attack has raised security issues all over the world.
Misusing a leaked set of hacking tools that were believed to have been developed by the U.S. National Security Agency, it has infected tens of thousands of computer systems, severely disrupting the functioning of health systems as well as corporate businesses mainly in the U.K., Russia, Taiwan and Ukraine.
How Is It Spreading?
The virus called the WannaCry/WCry/WanaCryptor 2.0 is a type of ransomware that is being unfurled as attachments through emails, releasing malicious content onto their computer systems.
Ransomware: It is a type of malicious software that is designed to block access to a computer system until a sum of money is paid.
Once the user clicks on the attachment, the ransomware is released onto the system and all access gets denied. It locks up all the files and encrypts them in an obscure manner.
It then demands ransom (or payment) allegedly in the form of bitcoin to allow you to gain control over your system and files.
The worst part is that even if you agree to pay the ransom, there is no actual guarantee that you will be granted access.
Reportedly, there have been cases where the ransomware filed up the stakes and demanded more money after a few days or threatened to delete files altogether.
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Who Are Affected?
As per the researchers of Russian cyber security software maker Kaspersky Lab, there were 45,000 attacks reported in 74 countries only on Friday. After a few hours, another security software maker Avast laid down their count to be reaching 57,000 infections in 99 countries.
Amongst the worst affected nations are India and Russia, partly because older versions of Windows are pretty common in both the countries and offer less resistance to malicious content.
In England, the entire computer and networking systems of hospitals under the National Healthcare System (NHS) have been incapacitated forcing the doctors to turn the hundreds of patients away.
In India, the Andra Pradesh Police Department is amongst the first victims to succumb to this ransomware attack and more are getting infected every minute.
Other high-profile victims of the cyber attack include International courier delivery company FedEx, Nissan’s Sunderland Plant, Spanish telecommunications Company Telefonica, Ministry of Moscow and German railway system.
How Can You Save Yourself?
Well, the immediate precautions obviously include not downloading any attachment from an email that has a suspicious or unidentified source. Since that won’t be possible for most people, upgrading their anti-virus software to the highest level of security can also help in identifying any potential ransomware threat.
A cyber security researcher on the Internet discovered a ‘kill switch’. The researcher said that registering the domain name used by the malware has stopped it from spreading, for now.
For others, the researchers have suggested users worldwide to download updates that are suggested by their operating systems because they have a lot of important information as well as tools to block such malware and minimize their impact.
Image Credits: Google